Cool In A Steve McQueen Sort Of Way

So the swamp of my working days cleared for a few hours yesterday and I did a huge amount of tasks that had been sitting around waiting to be done, managed to do so while watching all the World Cup games and played some Civilisation IV. I also finished 2 novels. Is it a surprise to you that my wife was off gallavanting around the city like some extra from Sex And The City with her bosom buddy? When wife is away, Zoomtard plays. By plays I mean works. That is just the kind of guy I am.

By the way, when will the Sex And The City touchstone get old? Well, I mean, old for me. Me who sometimes calls it Sex In The City. I know its probably stale, even decomposing for everyone else but to my mind, nothing captures chic urban living than those 4 slightly minging characters. I never watched a full episode. Samantha was the sex mad one and Carrie was the star and then there was pretty-but-boring art girl and the red-haired nervous one. Who cares Zoomtard? The point is, Neuro was off being Carrie to LyDiamonds Samantha(!). And I was working like a fiend.

One of the things I did was read Douglas Coupland’s new novel, JPod. Yes, the novel I have been waiting for for months. The novel that had a reminder installed on my phone so I could buy it when it was published. And man am I deflated. Douglas Coupland’s books began my love affair with reading. My brother got me Microserfs for Christmas in 1996 alongside a Michael Moore book and he apologised for the student-stingyness of the gift. He thought I was just pretending to save his feelings when I sat all Christmas morning enthralled by this novel with its pages of subconscious gibberish and its tales of life as a programmer but I wasn’t. The novel caught me up in a way only kids books (with titles like SKUNK And The OZONE Conspiracy by Margaret Cruickshank) and Michael Crichton novels had up till then. It was amazing. I read it. Then I read it again. Then I saved up my £2 an hour salary from my job at Londis to buy his other books and read them. So Doug is important to me and I love Microserfs and Generation X and Girlfriend In A Coma and Life After God in ways that I don’t love other books. I wait for Coupland novels in ways I don’t wait for others. Coming back to the last pages of Girlfriend In A Coma or the final thoughts of Life After God, I can’t help but think that there was something providential in me crossing paths with Coupland before I crossed paths with God. In the Google Map of my predestined life being generated and regenerated in the heavenlies, Coupland has a pin-pointed place preserved.

So JPod is a big let down. It has the feel of a book that is being made up on the spot. Neuro is a much more discerning reader than I am and she long ago gave away her affections for Coupland in the face of his childish or non-existent plots and his flimsy characters. For Neuro was able to see way back in the Families and Wyoming days that one of Coupland’s secrets was to draw characters you wanted to be friends with. He didn’t write characters you wanted to be, because they had intractable problems no one fancies. But you would love to hang out with his characters. So JPod suffers from these fatal flaws- plot turns and coincidences that are Hardy-esque in their stupidity. You have to know me to understand just how big an insult it is for me to compare your writing to Thomas Hardy but JPod is that bad. And the characters are thinner than my hair. And the Microserf re-hashing of the subconscious doesn’t even have a connection to the storyline like it did back in the first book.

But… wait a second! You start thinking about this book about 35 pages in. This is a game. Coupland has heard the criticisms and he is mocking us, poking us, gently prodding our info overloaded lives by publishing a book where he is emphasising all his own flaws. You start reading JPod and its a total let down. You keep reading it because you start to think maybe its meant to be a total let down. When Coupland pops up in the novel, you realise that whether or not his gamble pays off, Coupland is trying something he has never done before. His setting is the same as Microserfs- a software lab with some autism-scale programmers. His characters are all the same as every other Coupland character- smart, culturally plugged in, ironic, wealthy cynics. His plot is the same as many Coupland plots- family dilemmas mixed with career-laden existential angst. And at the end of it, the climax is as brief and hurried (in contrast to Shriver, who’s Double Fault was the other book I read, who draws out climaxes superbly) as in other novels, but in this case, self-consciously so.

JPod is not a postmodern novel like Coetzee’s Foe, where the narrative collapses and the author is straining to say something profound about all discourse in our time. It is a postmodern novel the way that 2nd grade theologians like them- simple enough to make sense of and not especially taxing on our vocabulary. It is as compellingly written in places as other Coupland novels and as usual, there are a few idea nuggets we would do well to treasure. But I’m not a skilled enough reader to know whether a deliberately bad book is a good book. If it isn’t a deliberately bad book, then this is a very bad book. But it might be worth the read anyway.

Something definitely totally and utterly worth your while is Powers Of Ten, a video made by IBM in the late 70s to show how important perspective is, how everything is connected, how life is too fucking amazing to be an accident. I might be editorialising it there. The creators may not have had the same intention, but if you have 9 minutes, watch this and consider how the universe is a love letter after all: The Power Of Ten.

Your Correspondent, Bought Charlie Sheen’s used toothpaste on EBay

2 Responses to “Cool In A Steve McQueen Sort Of Way”

  1. jimlad says:

    Curly Dee did the same to me with films but by the time I managed to convince her to watch Star Wars, I had come up with a counter strike. Hold on a second. Didn’t you mention a counter-strike tournament a while ago? Never mind, I’ve never played Half-life or counter-strike anyway. This is to keep my nerd standing down below geek level, when all things are considered (except God, because if he is considered people start to lose interest in labels, but then they go to church and start again). Actually come to think of it, I have played a demo of Half-life.

    Anyway, I used a similar argument to yours above. I explained that George Lucas actually wanted to make Star Wars really corny. That’s the fun of it. He’s just playing around in a cool universe. Those aliens? They’re arty yet fake, so you don’t take them seriously but still appreciate the chance to live in a universe far, far away. Now she likes Star Wars. It doesn’t get a stupendous amount of stars, but she likes it.

    You should find a book that you know is corny, and find loads of good things in it and explain away the bad things, and see if your wife buys it. It’s fun doing things like that.

    Anyway, enough of the crap books. Feed my brain Zoomtard!

  2. jimlad says:

    Oh, thanks by the way. That was quick. You anticipated my desire for brain food and put it in the blog before this one, knowing that once I had read this post I would scroll down just to make sure. How cogniscient of you.